Older children to adults
REVIEWER: Dr. Tom Snyder
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN almost captures the rollicking, merry spirit of the old pirate movies that Hollywood used to make. Johnny Depp gives an inventive performance as a rogue pirate, with spirited help from Orlando Bloom of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and Keira Knightly from BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM as the swashbuckling hero and heroine, and Geoffrey Rush as the archetypal pirate villain.
Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow, whose life is turned upside down when his nemesis, the wily Captain Barbossa, played by Rush, steals his ship, the Black Pearl. Years later, Sparrow finds his way to Port Royal, where he’s promptly placed in irons, but not without a struggle. Barbossa and his men interrupt Sparrow’s scheduled hanging when they raid the port and kidnap the Governor’s beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, played by Keira Knightly.
Elizabeth’s childhood friend, Will Turner, played by Orlando Bloom, joins forces with Sparrow to commandeer a ship in a gallant attempt to rescue her and recapture the Black Pearl. Pursuing them is Commodore Norrington, a debonair officer who seeks Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. Unknown to everyone, a cursed Aztec treasure has doomed Barbossa and his crew to live as walking dead men, who appear as living skeletons in the moonlight.
Johnny Depp gives a quirky, but delightful, performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Instead of portraying his character as a swashbuckling Errol Flynn type, he acts as if he’s always slightly crazy or tipsy. He does, however, always have one thing on his mind – how to get his ship back, by hook or by crook. The Black Pearl represents freedom to Jack, and this hope for freedom encourages him to be clever.
Depp’s eccentric performance might have sunk a lesser movie, but it actually leaves room for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly to push the heroic aspects of Will and Elizabeth’s characters. Elizabeth shows concern for others by offering herself as a hostage if Barbossa and his men will leave the town alone. Will is madly in love with Elizabeth, and he risks everything to rescue her. Early in the movie, he and Depp have a brilliant sword fighting scene. Bloom and Knightly are rising stars. Their strong performances help keep the movie going, even when the story lags.
A pirate movie wouldn’t be a pirate movie without a sneaky villain. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN has one in Captain Barbossa, played to the hilt by the talented Geoffrey Rush. Rush relishes his role with larcenous glee. Although the movie lacks a truly despicable villain, which may lessen the sense of jeopardy for some viewers, Rush’s performance adds to the movie’s fun spirit.
Guided by the sensibilities of incredibly successful producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Gore Verbinski has finally crafted an entertaining movie that might stand the test of time. He inserts a lighthearted, often comical, mood into the movie that suits the story and the characters. This spirit of fun may attract many repeat viewers, despite the poor track record of recent pirate movies. Then again, it might not be enough to secure a lengthy run.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN has generated some controversy, because it is the first Disney movie to be released with a PG-13 rating.
In an interview with MOVIEGUIDE®, Bruckheimer indicated that he thought the Ratings Board was being a little too strict with his movie, despite its action violence and scary skeletons. He pointed out that the movie doesn’t have any strong foul language, sex, or sexual nudity in it. He and Disney decided to release the movie with the rating anyway, because they didn’t really want to cut any of the skeleton scenes or violent scenes that the Ratings Board said qualified the movie for a PG-13 rating instead of a PG. “The film might be too intense for a six-year-old,” he added.
Another controversy for Bible-believing Christians and Jews is the Aztec curse that has doomed Captain Barbossa and his men to be living skeletons. The pagan, occult aspect of this part of the movie spoils its moral, redemptive elements, which also could have been much stronger, even with the curse and the skeletons left in the story. A stronger ending might have fixed this problem, or greatly reduced it.
Still, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is a swashbuckling jolly good time at the movies. Full of humor, wit, and derring do, it’s a fun ride on the high seas of adventure, all from the comfortable safety of your plush theater chair.
Please address your comments to:
Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEO
Buena Vista Distribution Co.
(Walt Disney Pictures, Caravan, Hollywood, Miramax, & Touchstone Pictures)
Dick Cook, Chairman
Walt Disney Pictures
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
In PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, a heroic young man joins forces with a pirate to rescue a beautiful girl from the clutches of a group of cursed, bloodthirsty pirates. Despite some pagan, occult elements, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is a swashbuckling jolly good time at the movies, with some positive moral and redemptive themes.
Children and adults
REVIEWER: Dr. Ted Baehr
SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS is a delightful surprise. It's an extremely exciting, well-written animated movie with some exciting sequences that rival big screen epics.
The movie tells the story of Sinbad of Arabian Nights fame. In this version of the oft told tale, Sinbad is a pirate, trying to cap off his career by stealing the Book of Peace. When he boards the ship which is carrying the Book of Peace, he discovers his old friend Proteus. Eris, the goddess of chaos, sends a horrific monster down to attack the ship because she wants the Book of Peace. Proteus and Sinbad fight side by side to destroy the monster.
When they get to the town of Syracuse, Sinbad is feted at a banquet for helping to save the ship. The Book of Peace is put in an honored position in a lighthouse, and the kings of the Seven Cities drink a toast in a service that resembles communion, with Proteus' father holding a chalice with a cross on it.
Meanwhile, Eris impersonates Sinbad and steals the Book of Peace. Sinbad is blamed and condemned to death, but Proteus says that he will take Sinbad's place, freeing Sinbad to go to the edge of the world to the home of Eris in Tartarus to retrieve the book. Proteus' betrothed and beloved, Marina, goes with Sinbad to make sure he retrieves the Book of Peace. Many harrowing adventures occur, some of them extremely exciting and frightening, before some twists and turns bring this mythic tale to an end.
The good news is that Sinbad has many very positive themes. Sinbad the thief and sinner needs to choose the right way, recovering the Book of Peace. He needs to lay down his life for his friends. He needs to choose honor over selfishness, truth over falsehood, and trust over irresponsibility. . . in fact all those Christian virtues which are set forth so clearly in the Bible, the real Book of Peace. Thus, there is a Christian allegory running underneath the mythological story.
Sinbad, himself, has to look in the mirror to find out who he is and who he wants to be. He sees that he's been selfish, cold-hearted, cruel, and irresponsible. So convicted, he chooses the truth and the right way.
There are several minor cautions, however. Much of the mythology seems all too convincing. Some of the action violates the logic of the story. The world of chaos ruled by the goddess is nominalistic. There are several clear sexual innuendoes, and the sirens almost appear to be naked at times. Furthermore, there are some Romantic elements, in the philosophical sense, which, though rebuked, are not entirely resolved. Also, there is a lot of sword play, scary monsters and frightening situations.
Even so, SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS has some incredible writing. The story carries you to the end in such a dramatic fashion that the children sitting next to me at the screening were clapping and cheering. I have seldom seen such an enthusiastic response from children at a screening. The quality and moral virtues of SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS are surprising because the trailers and advertisements do not even hint at the excellence and virtues of the movie itself which can be summed up in the biblical mandate from John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (NIV)
Please address your comments to:
David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg & Steven Spielberg
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201
Phone: (818) 695-5000
SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS is a very well-written animated adventure tale about Sinbad the sailor trying to retrieve the Book of Peace from an evil spirit to save his friend. There is a strong Christian allegory with strong moral values running underneath this mythological story, which includes, however, some light sexual innuendoes and scary monsters.
Older children to adultsREVIEWER: Lisa Rice and Dr. Tom SnyderSPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER is exuberant, spirited and playful, a rollicking romp filled with dazzling effects, a TRON for the 21st Century. It’s another successful family movie from Robert Rodriguez, who first made his name producing adult thrillers with a Latino edge, like EL MARIACHI and DESPERADO.GAME OVER opens with Juni Cortez telling viewers that he’s left the OSS spy agency and become a private detective, finding lost toys and rescuing cats from trees. When his sister, Carmen, gets trapped in a video game designed by an evil genius named “The Toymaker,” the OSS recruits Juni to go into the insidious game to rescue her. With help from his handicapped grandfather, who lost the use of his legs because of The Toymaker, Juni sets out to conquer the first three levels of the video game so that he can get to Level 4 where The Toymaker has imprisoned Carmen. Juni is afraid, however, that his grandfather may seek revenge against The Toymaker, releasing him from the cyberspace world in which the OSS imprisoned him.Rodriguez has gone one step further in the third SPY KIDS movie. In this one, he creates a complete fantasy world filled with robots, creatures, surrealistic images, and computer graphics. Some of the monsters might be a little too scary for younger children, but the images Rodriguez creates are simply outstanding. If you and your children can get beyond the cumbersome 3D glasses, you and they will have a thoroughly enjoyable time, despite some exaggerated acting at times that breaks the illusion. Once again, Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega do a wonderful job as Juni and Carmen. Despite his real-life health problems, Ricardo Montalban, as the kindly but tough grandfather, recalls his powerful work in the pop culture classic STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KLHAN, only this time he gets to play a good guy. Sylvestor Stallone adds a delightful touch of lunacy in his role as the off-kilter Toymaker.Best of all, SPY KIDS 3D has many spiritual parallels.First of all, it demonstrates the Christian, video game expression "new level, new devil?" The evil video game shows a progression of warfare with jumping frogs, giant robot fight, tinker toy guys, a lava monster, and, finally the big bad devil himself, Sylvester Stallone. In our everyday lives as Christians, we will face many new devils, and some old ones, as we grow toward Christian maturity.The movie also extols family in that the boy calls his infirm grandfather into the game and draws on his wisdom at every turn. Especially noteworthy is Ricardo Montalban’s great speech about forgiveness, humility, patience, and other virtues. His speech gives the movie its strong Christian premise at the end – that forgiveness conquers sin, or evil, and brings redemption.There is, however, a politically correct reference to "everyone is family," which is questioned as absurd at the beginning, but which is played out fully at the end, but in a good way. The six children who accompanied one of our reviewers can't wait to go back. They felt they were really inside the coolest video game in the world.Bravo to the filmmakers for making a high-tech kid thriller with such incredible messages!Please address your comments to:Bob Weinstein & Harvey WeinsteinDimension Films99 Hudson Street, 5th FloorNew York, NY 10013Phone: (212) 219-4100Fax: (212) 941-3836Website: www.dimensionfilms.com
In SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER, Juni Cortez must rescue his sister, Carmen, trapped in a video game controlled by the evil Toymaker. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez imagines a complete fantasy world filled with amazing robots, creatures, surrealistic images, and other computer graphics. It is full of heart, moral virtues and strong Christian principles.
SECONDHAND LIONS, set mostly in the 1950s, stars Haley Joel Osment, Michael Caine, and Robert Duvall in a story about a young boy left in the care of his two irascible, cantankerous great-uncles. With help from his talented cast, writer and director Tim McCanlies has crafted a heartwarming, exciting, humorous, and ultimately uplifting tale for older children, teenagers, and adults, but the movie contains many light obscenities and a Romantic element.
The very funny CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN stars Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt as parents of 12 children who must confront their priorities when their careers get in the way. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN is highly entertaining. Although it is not the beloved original novel, it makes a tremendous number of positive, redemptive, and moral points including affirming the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the midst of messy situations.
PETER PAN is a wonderfully crafted, morally uplifting movie that intentionally emphasizes the fantasy elements of the story both in dialogue and design of the film. For those who don’t know the story, one night Peter Pan and Tinkerbell whisk the Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael, away to Neverland, where go on a rousing adventure with the lost boys, Indians, and pirates, led by the infamous Captain Hook.
REVIEWER: Dr. Tom Snyder
SPELLBOUND is a delightful documentary about the 1999 National Spelling Bee competition in Washington D.C. sponsored by the Scripps-Howard newspapers. It's too bad that it didn't win the Oscar® for Best Documentary this year instead of BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, because it is far superior to that propagandistic, fictitious movie.
SPELLBOUND focuses on eight young contestants from all over the United States, including Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. itself. One of the children, Angela, comes from a Mexican immigrant family in Texas, a couple are from immigrant families from India, and the rest include a tall gangly boy named Ted from Missouri, a small, nerdy boy named Harry from New Jersey who cracks jokes and contorts his face while spelling words, a pessimistic speller from Pennsylvania named April, and a positive black girl named Ashley who's being raised by a single mother in Washington. As the number of contestants dwindles down to a few, some of the eight must go up against one of the top five spellers from last year, an Indian boy named Georgie, who proclaims his faith in Jesus Christ and extols the virtues of hard work and honoring thy father and thy mother.
SPELLBOUND contains lots of humor, suspense and character. The positive interaction between the children and their parents almost makes the show, but the movie also has lots of interviews with the children and their siblings. The final third of the movie is an intense, exciting look at the tensions, joys, and disappointments that occur at every national spelling bee contest. Best of all, the winners are gracious, and the losers are able to put their losses behind them.
Although one of the parents briefly mentions his Hindu guru, SPELLBOUND contains positive references to God, the Ten Commandments and even Jesus Christ. Thus, while SPELLBOUND doesn't endorse Christianity, it does seem to endorse a strong belief in God and a belief that God wants us to work hard at developing our God-given talents.
The main point of the movie, however, is the strong support these children receive from their involved parents. The parents work tirelessly to help their children do their best, but most of them seem resigned to the fact that only one of the contestants can win the final competition.
SPELLBOUND also is a celebration of the good that is America, the wonderful country where such great things can occur. "You don't get any second chances in India the way you do in America," notes Nupur, one of the Indian contestants who went to the spelling bee competition the previous year. You wouldn't expect to come away with a beaming patriotic pride in the United States from a documentary about a spelling bee, but that's exactly what may happen to you if you see this wonderful movie.
Please address your comments to:
1233 20th St. NW #204
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: (202) 466-6012
Fax: (202) 466-6013
SPELLBOUND is a delightful documentary about the 1999 National Spelling Bee competition in Washington D.C. A truly positive slice of Americana, SPELLBOUND focuses on eight of the young contestants and shows the strong support they get from their parents, siblings and some of their communities.
ChildrenREVIEWER: Dr. Ted BaehrPIGLET'S BIG MOVIE is absolutely adorable. If you've become slightly cynical about animation, especially children's cartoons from well-known sources, PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE is the cure. Not only was it well crafted, but they tested it before the right audience - the filmmaker's child's first grade class. Based on this discerning group, they cured the movie of any and all problems.The movie starts out with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Rabbit trying to trick a bunch of bees into leaving their hive so that they can get Pooh's favorite food, honey. When Piglet comes along, they tell him he's too small to help. However, when the bees get angry, unbeknownst to his friends, Piglet is the one who saves the day. Needless to say, they don't notice, and Piglet goes off into the 100-acre wood feeling rejected - too little to help anyone.In the woods, Piglet helps a little bird find its nest and helps several other animals as well, failing to realize that he actually is a constant help to everyone around him. Soon Pooh and others realize that Piglet is gone. They go to his house and find his "Book of Remembrances," a book with drawings of some of their most famous adventures. They decide to find Piglet by following the book to each of the adventurous spots in the hundred acres wood. As they recall each adventure, they realize it was really Piglet's adventure; such as, getting to know Kanga and her little son, Roo, finding the North Pole in the hundred acre wood, and building a house at Pooh Corner for Eeyore. When they lose the book in a stream, they go back to Piglet's and create drawings of all the wonderful things Piglet has done, even portraying this compassionate, loving Piglet in full armor - suggesting the armor of God.Piglet, as a matter of fact, seems to reflect the great definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:3-13, since he never thinks of himself, he's always humble, always caring for others, and always patient. Eventually, of course, good triumphs, and the ending is enough to make even the most hardhearted reviewer cry.This wonderful animated movie is deeply enhanced by Carly Simon's songs. The animation is traditional and winsome, a delight to all the children at the 10:00 Saturday morning screening. The voices are well conceived. Tagged by Walt Disney himself to play Piglet, legendary character actor John Fiedler still makes a fantastic Piglet. Each character has tremendous personality, and each character reflects the foibles of real human beings. Owl pontificates, Rabbit starts out being negative but always comes around, and Pooh is pure love with a hungry stomach. Each one has distinct personalities, yet the distinctions are positive and not demeaning. The whole creative team behind PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE needs to be congratulated.Please address your comments to:Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEOBuena Vista Distribution Co.(Walt Disney Pictures, Caravan, Hollywood, Miramax, & Touchstone Pictures)Dick Cook, ChairmanWalt Disney Pictures500 South Buena Vista StreetBurbank, CA 91521Phone: (818) 560-1000Website: www.disney.com
PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE is an absolutely adorable, highly moral and redemptive animated movie about Winnie the Pooh and his friends, who find out how important a role small little Piglet plays in their lives.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN is a spectacular, well-directed, well-acted, word for word version of the Gospel of John. Christians need to go into all the world to bring their friends to watch the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.
FINDING NEMO is a wonderful animated adventure about a small clownfish who goes in search of his son, who's been put into a fish tank by human beings. Every second of FINDING NEMO is beautifully animated, spectacularly directed and written with great heart and strong moral values.